In Tulips and other stimulants Lambert was interested in the overall pattern of the bouquet, the shape and colour of the flowers, the fruit and fruit bowl, the forms of the jug, the wine decanter and glass, and the mottled pattern of the tablecloth. He simplified the illustrative elements and subdued them to the demands of his formal design, adding and subtracting items to his composition to achieve the right balance. He ably captured the tone and texture of the range of elements in this still life, using strong colours.
Lambert revealingly noted in a letter to Sydney painter Adrian Feint on 3 January 1928 that he wanted to get the painting away from the studio, as it was completed and he felt that he might be tempted to overdo the finishing. He commented that he had ‘finished or made definite the drawing of the white jug’ and that he had improved the glass decanter ‘with regard to the surface and reflexions’. He observed that ‘the apple on the left is now properly turned in modelling, to take its place in the bowl’. He said that ‘a glass has been introduced to balance the sparkle of the decanter’, and to ‘carry the eye away from the too diagonal composition the picture presented before this addition’ and finally, that ‘the table cloth has been repainted with I think satisfactory result’ and there was a ‘general improvement of textures over all’ (AGNSW RL).
In this still life he depicted tulips and London pride in the ceramic jug, and apples, over-ripe bananas and plums in the white bowl. The title, as the reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald observed on 29 November 1927, was a ‘whimsical allusion to the fact that a decanter of wine stands on the table near the group of flowers’.
The painting was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales from ‘A group of contemporary painters’ exhibition in Sydney in November–December 1927. Lambert’s other work in that modernist exhibition was The audience: Mrs Lambert, Mr Gordon and Mr Snekker (cat.111).